On July 27, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published new FAQs in relation to the debt collection rule set out in Regulation F. The new FAQs address electronic reporting requirements and takedown notices, as well as restrictions on third parties. party communications.
Among other things, these updated FAQs address electronic communication issues such as whether a debt collector is required to communicate electronically with a consumer (answer: no), what is a reasonable and easy method for consumers to opt out of electronic communications (for example, a hypertext link or allowing the consumer to respond with the word “stop”), and whether the general prohibition on third-party communications applies to electronic communications (answer: yes). The Electronic Communications FAQs further state that a consumer’s opt-out request is effective even if it does not comply with the collection agent’s opt-out instructions (for example, the collection agent indicates that the consumer may unsubscribe by replying “unsubscribe”, but the consumer responds with a request to “stop” or “cancel” electronic communications).
The CFPB has also updated its FAQ regarding limitations on communications at unusual or inconvenient times or places. One of these FAQ answers notes that the debt collection rule does not in itself define unusual or inconvenient locations, although certain means of communication may be known by the debt collector to be associated with a location that the consumer found inconvenient (such as home landline number). The CFPB notes that the ban on communicating in unusual or awkward places does not prohibit a debt collector from communicating with a consumer through media not associated with a location unless the debt collector knows that the consumer is in an unusual location or knows that the consumer is in a location that the debt collector knows or should know is inconvenient to the consumer.
Practical point: Because the Debt Collections Rule remains relatively new, debt collectors should carefully review guidance such as the updated FAQ to ensure their practices align with the CFPB’s evolving interpretation of the rule. . Since the FAQs repeatedly refer to the CFPB’s Small Entity Compliance Guide, debt collectors would be wise to familiarize themselves with this resource.